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HomeWorld'National Security': Pakistan's ISI gets nod to trace and intercept calls, messages

‘National Security’: Pakistan’s ISI gets nod to trace and intercept calls, messages

Islamabad, July 9: Pakistan’s spy agency ISI has been formally granted permission by the government to intercept and trace calls and messages in the “interest of national security”, media reports said on Tuesday. The Shehbaz Sharif cabinet has approved the relevant circular allowing a designated ISI officer to carry out the tracing of calls under the Telecommunication (Re-organisation) Act’s Section 54, which allows the federal government to authorise any person or persons to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any telecommunication system in the interest of national security, Geo News reported. However, the officer nominated by the agency must be at least of grade 18, or deputy director level in the case of the ISI.

“The federal government in the interest of national security and in the apprehension of any offence is pleased to authorise the officers (…) to be nominated from time to time by ISI to intercept calls and messages or to trace calls through any communication system,” as per the notification issued by the Ministry of Information. The move came months after the Islamabad High Court was informed in December during the hearing of a case related to audio leaks that the government had not permitted any intelligence agency to tap audio conversations. The latest step is seen as part of the Shehbaz Sharif government’s steps towards stricter social media regulations, based on “national security concerns” and the continued ban on social media platform X. In May, the government approved a draft to amend the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, (PECA), 2016, seeking a Digital Rights Protection Authority, and is also installing a national firewall on different internet service providers (ISPs) to rein in social media with filters capable of blocking unwanted content from reaching a wider audience, as per media reports.

The latest firewall’s prime focus is said to identify the locations from where the material deemed suspect is originating and the subsequent blockade or diminished coverage of those accounts. There will be a keyword filtering system to detect content on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and X that the government considers undesirable or prejudicial to national security etc. Preparations are also in progress to prevent the ‘misuse’ of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).

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